LAWRENCE — As Brendan "Bookie" Radley-Hiles jogged off Kivisto Field after No. 6 Oklahoma's (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) 45-20 win over Kansas (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) Saturday, members of The Pride shouted, "Texas week!"
Radley-Hiles, as most Oklahoma players and fans would do in response, flashed the horns down before disappearing into the Oklahoma locker room.
It's that time of year, and it feels more monumental than ever. And the Sooners feels as confident as ever heading to Dallas.
"I feel good about our team. I feel good about our whole team. I feel like our whole team is in the same boat," coach Lincoln Riley said about heading into Texas week. "We have got to continue to have an extreme sense of urgency to improve. No doubt, when we play well on all three sides of the ball we can do some really, really good things ... I feel good about our entire team."
If Texas beats West Virginia Saturday, it'll be the first time since 2012 that both teams come into the game ranked in the top 15. The Sooners have just seven days left to prep for the Longhorns, and if Saturday was any indication, they still have a lot of work to do.
Without their two starting tackles on the offensive line — Erik Swenson (left) and Adrian Ealy (right) — Oklahoma's offense looked dismal for much of the game against the Jayhawks. Defensively, the Sooners allowed Kansas to gash their front seven as Pooka Williams racked up 137 yards rushing. And as a team they had eight penalties for 89 yards, adding to their already heavily penalized season, ranking second in penalty yards in the country coming into the game with 90.8 yards per game.
It was by far OU's most sloppy game of the season. And to those on the outside, it's easy to think that with the Texas game looming, the players' minds were elsewhere. But not according to Riley.
"I honestly did not feel that with this team," Riley said. "We had some points that we wanted to come in and focus on. We did some of them well, we didn't do some of them well ... We just have to do better. But I don't think the Texas game was in any part a factor at all."
Riley may be right, but for the first five games, it's safe to say most of Sooner Nation has had the Longhorns in the back of their mind.
With Oklahoma State falling to Texas Tech on the road this weekend and Baylor having yet to prove themselves, No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 11 Texas sit above the Big 12 as the clear favorites to win the conference. If the Sooners can walk out of the Cotton Bowl with a win next Saturday, they could seemingly run the table and safely put themselves into College Football Playoff consideration.
Two Sooners who might just be the most important on the team — defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and quarterback Jalen Hurts — are new to the rivalry. But make no mistake, they know what's at stake.
“I know it’s one of the greatest rivalry in sport, I do," Grinch said. "Having an understanding in terms of the respect factor between both schools, both football programs. You know it's a war each year. You gotta make sure that you respect it that way. You know it’s game six, but you can’t just go down that row and say 'it’s game six, it’s not just anything.' I know enough about it not to suggest that."
For Hurts, it's nothing new.
"I grew up in Texas. I saw it," said Hurts, who totaled 284 yards and four touchdowns Saturday. "I played in the Iron Bowl. I played in big games before. I think I'll be alright."
From Hurts to Grinch to Riley, Oklahoma will have to have its best performance of the season so far next Saturday in Dallas to earn a win.
The players know that. The coaches know that. And they feel ready to do that.
"We obviously still have a lot of things we can do better. I like where our heads are at," Riley said with a pause. "Yeah, I like this team. I do."